A supportive sister shares her experience of accompanying her very own brother through the journey of cancer. She relates how despite her initial suffering with the news, eventually she felt that this experience became “a gift” in her life.
We had always been very close, and his heart-breaking illness and passing away afforded me great anguish. This, however, was tempered by my belief that he was now with God, who dries up every tear, and regales us with a wreath of flowers which never dry up.
Though no longer young, he had not found it easy to accept the fact that he was terminally ill. He kept hoping he would meet some doctor who would be experienced and kind enough to help him, give him hope, and make him feel less unwell. This futile hanging on to hope made me suffer all the more.
Thankfully, I realised early enough I could help him by offering spiritual support. I could remind him of certain truths of faith that he had always known and assented to, but which, in the present circumstances, no longer seemed so attractive and inviting. So I did just that: at the propitious moment, when I felt he could take it, I would quote some words from the liturgy, or from the Gospel, or from Saint Paul in which he could find consolation.
Spiritual relief was long in coming, but I firmly believed in its eventual efficacy and I went on, endeavoring to do it prudently, briefly, and only when I felt the occasion allowed it, or clearly asked for it. And of course, I prayed. I was fully aware of prayer being an essential condition at this most difficult time.
Almost a year had passed since the diagnosis. I knew my dear brother had only a few months left. By now he had fully accepted he would go. I continued to pray, visited him regularly, and tried to be of more spiritual help, which he now accepted gratefully and philosophically. The day before he passed on, I had the consolation of knowing, from what he said, he was fully prepared to meet his Maker.
Then came a gratifying experience.
The beautiful, inspiring liturgy was all over. Many flowers had been sent. The men were now clearing the bunches, giving them to relatives to carry to the cemetery. A large, beautiful, white carnation dropped from one of them. I love carnations. I did not want to see it flattened under some man’s heavy weight.
Slowly and unobtrusively, I left my place, went up a few steps, picked it up, and held it, just held it. I never thought of doing anything with it. I had saved it. That was enough. Presently, I quite forgot I was carrying it.
At the grave, the priest said a final prayer, and the grave diggers started their work. I looked on, thankful that I had accompanied my brother all along the final leg of his sacred journey on earth. He was now God’s, and God was his, forever.
While musing along these consoling lines, I saw that one of the men working on the grave was looking up at me. I wondered why. Then he took a few steps towards me. In a hushed voice he said:
“Madam, would you like to throw in your flower; we’re closing.”
I did. Very willingly, most thankfully, so lovingly.
Later, I remembered Saint James’ words: “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” James 1:17. That loving last touch (the physical, as well as the metaphorical) will always seem to me to have been a good and perfect ending to a sad, yet beautiful, story. To me, it was a gift from above.
Published: April 2017